Filler: Suffolk budgets rationally for red light cameras, unlike NassauIt looks like Suffolk County officials are taking a very realistic approach to budgeting revenue
from speed cameras in school zones, which is very much to their credit…and very much to Nassau officials’ discredit.This matters because as Nassau County administrators and union representatives work to get a deal put together that would lift the wage freeze the Nassau Interim Finance Authority imposed three
years ago, the big bones of contention are how much such deals will cost and how they will be paid for.NIFA would prefer that any deal to lift the freeze save just as much as the wage freeze itself
does, through changed work rules, benefit levels or wage scales.But county and union officials have, in addition to trying to find a way to make granting annual raises as cheap as not granting them, promoted ways to increase revenue to pay for lifting the wage freeze. The flaw in that argument is that the county, with an annual deficit running between $80 million and $100 million, needs more revenue even with pay scales stuck. Even if County Executive Edward Mangano and his administration can bring in more money, that doesn’t mean it should go to cops and other union workers. Property owners who’ve been waiting for tax refunds for years might like to have a crack at that new revenue, too.But before you can decide where new revenue ought to go, you have to project how much it’s going to be. Or you could, as advocates for a deal now on the table have been, just wish upon speed cameras as if they were shooting stars.Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently proposed that both Nassau and Suffolk counties get speed cameras in school zones. Nassau has actually budgeted revenue of $8 million to $12 million per year from such cameras in its multi-year plan.But in the context of a new deal to lift the wage freeze, proponents say Nassau’s cameras can bring in $32 million per year, which would be 64 tickets per school day for each camera, at $50 each, and with a 100 percent collection rate.Suffolk officials, it turns out, are estimating that each of their cameras will ticket 20 people per day, and collect on about 70 percent of the violations. And if you apply those numbers in Nassau, you get the $8 million to $12 million per year revenue estimate that the county itself included in the multi-year plan, before visions of thawing wage freezes began dancing in their heads.
Dobie: DEC is right to revise swan plansA mother swan and her eight cygnets swim in the pond at the Charles T. Church Preserve, also known as Shu Swamp Preserve, in Mill Neck. The swans share the pond with geese, river otters, muskrat and snapping turtles. (Newsday/John Paraskevas)
The state is revising its plan to eradicate mute swans, in a way that seems likely to leave some of the beloved birds in the wild.
That’s a smart move, given the reaction that followed the release of the state’s plan.The state Department of Environmental Conservation received more than 1,500 comments, more than 16,000 form letters, and 30,000 signatures on various petitions. Plus, earlier this week State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) filed legislation to establish a moratorium on the killing of mute swans and require the DEC to conduct “independent” research before formulating a new plan.
The DEC telegraphed its new intentions in a news release Friday, when it said:“In revising the plan, DEC likely will acknowledge regional differences in status, potential impacts and desired population goals by setting varying goals for different regions of the state. In addition, DEC will consider nonlethal means to achieve the management plan’s intended goals.”
In other words, mute swans likely will continue to inhabit some parts of the state in some numbers and the DEC will achieve whatever population size is deemed appropriate by some means other than killing — for example, oiling eggs so they don’t hatch.A DEC report issued in December found that the population of mute swans statewide peaked at more than 2,800 in 2002 and currently is estimated to be about 2,200. Roughly 1,600 are on Long Island, 400 are in the Hudson Valley, and about 200 live around Lake Ontario. The study found that the population seems to have stabilized on Long Island and declined in the Hudson Valley, while growing quickly around Lake Ontario. It also noted the potential for more population growth in the future and the environmental damage that can be done by swans.Mute swans were one of scores of species added last fall to the state’s list of nonnative invasive species to be outlawed or subject to restrictions. Although many environmentalists praised the additions as long overdue, support was not universal, particularly as it related to mute swans.
Putting a hold on the eradication plan is wise. And the public will get to weigh in on the revised plan when it’s released, via another 30-day comment period.“We appreciate the strong response that the draft plan received, and it’s clear that New Yorkers recognize the importance of a comprehensive mute swan management plan that balances the interests of a diversity of stakeholders,” DEC commissioner Joe Martens said in the statement. “The revised plan will seek to balance the conflicting views about management of mute swans in New York.”
Dobie: The kids are alright. Let them be.
And the children shall lead the way.
That’s the moral of the story in the Central Islip school district, where the election of homecoming king and queen has become a civil rights issue of sorts.
To recap: Last fall, high school students elected Faith Shepherd, now 17, as homecoming king; Shepherd said she had come out as a lesbian when she was 13. After a local pastor complained about the students “violating tradition” and remarked that crossing gender lines causes “confusion” among young people, the school board asked the district to come up with a policy to limit homecoming kings and queens to “traditional gender roles.” Earlier this month, the board voted on the policy. Three members voted no and four abstained. So the proposal was rejected, as it should have been.
On Wednesday, the pastor and a handful of followers stood outside the high school and held a protest against the board’s decision. That’s their right, of course. Students reacted to the opportunity to have a free speech debate in different ways. Some yelled at the protesters to “go home,” while others professed their affection for Shepherd and encouraged the protesters to “grow up.”
Perhaps Superintendent Craig Carr should invite the protesters to meet with students for an exchange of ideas each might find illuminating.
Ultimately, the students are correct. At a time when the country continues to move in the direction of greater tolerance and understanding, their simple vote spoke volumes. And none of them seemed confused about what they had done.
The kids are alright. Let them be.
Some places use potatoes. Others opt for liquid cheese. Still others choose beer waste, tomatoes or corn.
In Suffolk, they’re looking at sugar beets.
To keep roads from icing.
Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) has proposed legislation that would require county public works officials to study the feasability of using an extract of sugar beets to help keep roads clear of ice and snow.
As crazy as it might sound at first blush, it’s an idea worth exploring.
Hahn’s legislation is part of a national trend as municipalities scramble to deal with a harsh winter and shortages of salt. Mixing beet juice — or, as some refer to it, beet molasses — with salt brine helps the mixture adhere better to roads, significantly lowers the temperature at which the mixture will continue working, and reduces the amount of salt needed, which could be a savings for taxpayers. In addition, advocates say the mixture is less caustic which reduces corrosion for cars and pollution for streams.
Locally, Sag Harbor and National Grid use beet juice, as does the New York State Thruway.
Beet juice also is being used in municipalities in Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio and Pennsylania, among other states, as well as in British Columbia in Canada.
Hahn’s bill passed out of committee Tuesday and will be considered by the full legislature next Tuesday.
Bessent: Digging for the bright side of potholes
So which is worse, the unrelenting blizzards of 2014 or the storms’ tire-and-rim demolishing spawn of potholes?
Current afflictions tend to trump those of the past, so today the answer has to be potholes. Slam into one of the yawning craters and your car may be added to the toll of maimed vehicles clogging traffic and destined for a costly trip to the repair shop.
Methodical road crews shoveling asphalt into the holes promise smoother days ahead. But it doesn’t help that shutting down traffic lanes for them to do their work can make getting from here to there as slow as a snow-covered roadway — though, thankfully, nowhere near as dangerous.
Potholes are a fact of life in the kind of weather we’re having. Roadways crack as they alternately freeze and thaw. As car after car hits the cracks, they grow into full-fledged potholes.
Anyone driving east on part of the Northern State Parkway on Thursday morning got the one-two punch. A single-vehicle accident between exits 34, at Brush Hollow Road, and 35, at Route 106-107, shut down the roadway between Hicksville and Jericho from 7:30 to 11:20. Motorists who moved over to the Long Island Expressway at Willis Avenue or thereabouts were greeted with pothole repairs funneling four lanes of heavy traffic into one.
The slow crawl did make the potholes easier to dodge. And the sun was shining. That’s something.
New York makes its move on the Port AuthorityPort Authority chairman David Samson is expected to show up at tomorrow’s scheduled board meeting but only to watch himself and New Jersey be neutered.David Samson, the Chairman of the Port Authority of New York andNew Jersey, speaks during an interview in the Port Authority Manhattanoffices. (AP, 2011)It looks to be an embarrassing turn of events for the former New Jersey state attorney general and power broker as he must sit silently while he and Gov. Chris Christie essentially lose control of the agency. Samson, however, has little choice. Leaving now, Samson has told associates, would lend an aroma of complicity in the scandal that has enveloped him and Christie ever since two Ft. Lee access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were closed in September. Yet staying after his influence has been eroded by the many investigations is a spectacular fall from grace.New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said frustratingly little about the controversy and when he does speak, he only reinforces the notion of comity between the two states and a desire for his counterpart on the other side of the Hudson River to clean up the mess created by his appointees. But, as is always the case in Cuomo-land, watch what he does. He is making his move.By the end of Wednesday’s meeting, New York will have taken control of the bi-state agency as the reigns shift to deputy board chair Scott Rechler, a Cuomo’s appointee. The full New Jersey delegation, fatally weakened by the scandal, is expected to give him unanimous support for the new order.Rechler will advance a motion to create a “Special Oversight Committee" of the board that will guide the authority’s response to the multiple investigations spurred by the lane closures and subsequent media revelations that Christie and Samson may have wielded the power of the PA for political and professional favors.Now the PA’s internal inspector general, who is conducting his own probe of the lanes closures, the involvement of the authority's police force and other matters will report to Rechler’s subcommittee. The new panel also will guide the authority’s response to request for documents and testimony from the investigations by the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and the legislative committee examining the Port Authority’s operations. The committee will have final say on whether to pay David Wildstein's legal fees.The special committee also will examine reforms needed to prevent another hijacking of the PAs operations and how its board members can avoid conflicts of interests. Expect stronger whistle-blower rules, stricter recusal policies for board members and other good governance rules that will require approval by the legislatures in both states.Rechler, a major Long Island developer and close ally of PA Executive director Patrick Foye will chair the special committee. Two other Cuomo appointees, Basil Paterson and Jeffrey Lynford, will give New York a three-vote majority. Rechler’s deputy chair will be Richard Bagger, a former Christie chief of staff who stepped down at the end of 2011 and he will be joined by Raymond Pocino, another Christie board appointee. While no action by the special committee can take place without the support of at least one New Jersey appointee, any attempt by them to block action will making Christie seem obstructionist.Cuomo now has the power to reshape the Port Authority. And New Jersey will have little choice but to accept what happens.
Will Regents retreat on Common Core satisfy critics?From left to right: Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr., and Regent Roger Tilles look on during a forum at Oyster Bay High School Oct. 15, 2013.
The Board of Regents issued a long list of changes Monday morning in how Common Core standards and the resulting curricula will be implemented going forward, and two questions immediately spring to mind:*Do the changes go far enough to mollify parents furious at the tougher curriculum and lower scores of students, teachers furious at the new evaluation system partially based on student test scores and the politicians terrified of both groups?*Do the changes go far enough to essentially defang the new curriculum and higher standards, sentencing another generation of kids to an education less rigorous than they need and a life faced without appropriate skills.Some of the 19 approved changes clearly make sense: more funding from the state to support Common Core implementation and parent engagement across-the-board, more appropriate testing for students with disabilities and English-language learners who under the original rules were often forced to take tests based on their age rather than what coursework they were studying, reducing allowable standardized district testing for k-2nd grade students (there are no state tests for children that young, contrary to what many believe), and a raft of resources to make teaching the new curricula easier on teachers and parents, particularly with students who are disabled or not native English speakers.But the most dramatic changes the Regents approved are problematic: High school students in the
class of 2022 will now be the first ones required to get scores on Regents exams high enough to show preparedness for college-level classes or the workforce in order to graduate. The plan had been to set that standard starting with the class of 2017. Are we really ready to throw in the towel on getting eight more graduating classes prepared for life after high school before we hand over their diplomas?The Regents also ordered the stakes for English and math tests in grades 3-8 to be dramatically lowered, saying they do not require or encourage districts to make placement or advancement decisions based on those tests. They put off until the 2015-2016 school year the triggering of Academic Intervention Services from low scores on those tests and agreed to tell parents that a result of “Level 2” on the 1-4 grading scale, which previously indicated sub par skills, will now mean “On track for Regents exam passing for graduation” (as opposed to, my words, “On track for successful life”) until the required passing scores are raised for the class of 2022.It’s fair to say a period of implementation and rising standards makes sense, but this is too long by quite a few years.And then there are the new, temporary rules for teachers and principals: those deemed ineffective this past school year or in the current school year because of student achievement on Common Coreassessments will now be able to argue in their dismissal hearing that their districts did not provide the professional development and support they needed to succeed.
Only about one percent of 3-8th grade English and math teachers received an “ineffective” rating last year and the state tests were only 20 percent of their evaluations, so this is more about talking points than preventing the dismissal of actual educators who've been done wrong by bad implementation.That makes the change seem reasonable and short-term, but therein lies the problem. The caveats and exceptions the teachers unions fight for and get always seem reasonable and short-term, until you realize another decade has gone by and it's still impossible to fire the worst teachers.It's that fact Gov. Andrew Cuomo was likely channeling when he blasted what he referred to as the Regents' delaying of the teacher evaluation system.
Again, some of the changes the Regents approved are quite wise. The other, bigger ones may be enough to tamp down parent protests against the Common Core, and thus back off terrified state legislators who for the past few weeks have been talking about gutting the new curriculum. They probably will not calm teachers unions that are going to fight evaluations based on student test scores until the end of time.And what will they do for the students? It’s hard to say. If the changes allow the implementation of more rigorous and appropriate curricula to go forward and silences the critics a bit, that’s good for kids, and probably a net positive, because that’s the point of this whole exercise. But I have to say that based on the level of constant resistance, I’ll believe it when I see it. If you can put rigor off until 2022, you can put it off until 2032.
Bessent: Hemp gets a second chance in the farm bill
Hemp, marijuana’s sober cousin and the most irrational hostage of the nation’s drug war, has been paroled.
For the first time since 1937 some American farmers will be able to grow the tall, cane-like weed — used for eons to make rope, clothing and even at one time the American flag — without violating the federal controlled substances act.
The prohibition made little sense because it’s impossible to get high on industrial hemp. And products made from it are currently imported into this country legally to the tune of about $500 million a year.
The farm bill that Congress passed this week gives growers in the nine states that have legalized hemp cultivation a pass on the federal law. That’s not the blanket legalization that logic and economic competition compels. But it’s a hopeful sign that Congress is finally beginning to clear-headedly rethink the more irrational excesses of the war on drugs.
Dobie: When does it make sense to give a snow day?
When it comes to school, snow makes things difficult. Some districts open late while others don't, some dismiss early while others keep their kids around. When it snows a lot, school gets canceled altogether.
The raft of snowstorms this winter has tempted many parents to keep their children home, even when their school is in session, and especially when a neighboring school is not. In some districts - most notably, New York City during one recent storm - as many as 40 percent of the students were absent. And while keeping a child home is an understandable reaction to inclement weather, especially for parents who drive their kids to school, it's also a potential problem.
Research out of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University suggests that while closing a school has no impact on overall student achievement, being absent from school when it is open does have a negative impact on an individual student's performance. The study looked at data for students in Massachusetts in grades 3 through 10 during the period 2003 to 2010.
The conclusion makes sense intuitively. It's easier for a teacher to make up for time lost to a school closure that affects everyone in a classroom than it is to try to bring individual students up to speed to compensate for material they missed that was learned by their peers.
Interestingly, absences due to bad weather had a greater negative effect on math test scores than on English test scores.
There is another interesting implication stemming from the study. It is well-known that students from poor families have more absences from school than students from families that are not poor. The study concludes that these absences by themselves explain as much as 20 percent of the achievement gap between poor and non-poor students.
Bessent: Farm bill includes some common sense
by Alvin Bessent
Farmers fared better than the hungry in the $956 billion farm bill Congress sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The bill expanded crop insurance and other subsidies for farmers while slicing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a/k/a food stamps — by $8 billion over 10 years. At least Congress finally eliminated a ludicrous program of direct payments of $5 billion a year to farmers whether they grew crops or not.
But setting aside those big ticket items Congress made some surprisingly commonsense tweaks to SNAP.
In the interest of taxpayers it excluded the cost of medical marijuana from the medical expenses that can legally be deducted from income when determining SNAP benefits. And it made households that include someone with significant lottery or gaming winnings ineligible for SNAP.
And in an important boost for healthy eating — and hopefully for local farmers’ bottomlines — it allows SNAP recipients to use their benefits to pay in advance for a share of a farmer’s production. That will enable small farmers to raise revenue to cover expected costs prior to harvest. And it will result in regular, subsequent deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables to participating SNAP recipients.
The law also authorized grants to expand pilot projects that reward SNAP recipients who buy fresh produce at farmers markets. For instance, one successful program in Michigan gives SNAP buyers a dollar in tokens, up to $20 maximum, for every dollar spent at an eligible market. The tokens can be redeemed for locally grown produce.
The government has a way of making any program mind numbingly complex and bureaucratic. But now and again simple commonsense sneaks through.
Dobie: Central Islip bond deserved more attention
Central Islip school district voters last week approved a $25 million capital improvement bond. The upgrades it will fund are, by all accounts, badly needed. Most of the cost will be covered by state funds with the remainder to come from the district’s capital reserve fund. In other words, there will be no direct impact for the district’s taxpayers.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason only 255 people came out to vote. That and the fact the vote was held at the end of January, when it’s cold outside and the minds of the electorate are not exactly focused on school funding. Central Islip’s turnout — more than 1,400 people voted in May’s school budget and board of trustees election — was not uncommon for a school district holding a bond vote out of electoral season. In some districts, that indeed has been the point: Schedule a vote for a date where turnout will be low, maximizing the chances the bond will be approved.
In Central Islip’s case, I wish more residents had weighed in on the proposition. After all, the bond approval will reduce the size of the district’s capital reserve fund by nearly 70 percent. That’s significant. And it demanded more voter comment than it received.
After two decades and $180 million spent, Taubman Centers Inc. is walking away from the old Cerro Wire property in Syosset, having failed at developing the 39-acre tract into a luxury mall but succeeded in making a profit nonetheless.
This long, contentious local planning nightmare is over. Or is it?
The property, along with Taubman’s share of a large mall in Arizona already partly owned by Simon Property Group, will be sold to Simon in a deal with a total value of $230 million. Simon, an archrival and sometime partner of Taubman, is one of three owners of Oyster Bay Realty, the group which bought another 53-acre parcel near Taubman’s from the Town of Oyster Bay for $32.5 million, leading to a voter referendum and a lawsuit that both went against Taubman.
The argument against the mall was always about density, traffic and the “save staid suburbia” mentality, but it never made much sense for that tract. The mall would have been a decent fit for the area and a huge boon to the property taxes of its neighbors.
So now we have Simon (and two minimal partners) with 92 acres that it’s paid over $260 million for. Oyster Bay Realty always said the tract it bought out from under Taubman would go for mixed-use development with minimal retail, but has never really explained what that means. But in order to make a profit on an investment that large for raw land, you have to have density.
So what exactly will Simon build there? And what assurances did it demand from the town before it plunked down that kind of money.
Stay tuned for another gripping installment of… “As Cerro Wire Turns.”
Never before has my attention been more focused on the actions of a groundhog than it will be come Sunday morning.
In fact, I think I can say with near-certainty that unless I am someday chased by a pack of the varmints hell-bent on tearing me apart for some perceived slight, I will never be more groundhog obsessed than I am right now.
This winter is just on my last nerve. The cold is endless and vast to the point that my native South Carolinian family has fallen into that deepest of northern hallucinations, the belief that on the rare occasion the mercury jumps to 31 degrees and sun shines that means “it’s nice out.” The cold has been (nearly) endless and soul-crushing. The rock salt and sandy mud, no matter how much we clean, now cover every inch of my floors, my Boston terrier, my car and, I think, my soul.
Local governments are reporting they’ve reached or will soon reach their budgeted limits for plowing, sanding and salting. Local parents have reported they’ve reached or will soon reach their tolerance for snow days, late starts, early dismissals and, honestly, the unplanned time spent in the same room with their kids baying out demands for hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches.
And the worst part is that we know, barring a groundhog-shadow miracle, the worst is yet to come.
For me, as much as I enjoy the Superbowl, which falls on Groundhog Day this year, I also face it with a sense of dread, because it’s the last thing to look forward to for months. Seriously, what good happens in February? Valentine’s Day? Please. For a guy who is been married 14 years, my biggest wish for Valentine’s Day is that CVS not run out of the stuff I’ll need to keep from looking like a complete loser husband when I dash in to the store on the way home from work, frenzied and sweating, at 7:45 that night. The weather in February (it gifted us with a three-foot blizzard) often makes January look like April in Paris, and the thing I most like to do when the weather is pukey, watch meaningless sporting events on television while I lie supine on the couch, is horrible post-Super Bowl. When I say meaningless sporting events, I do not include anything quite as utterly inconsequential as mid-season hockey or NBA games.
The legitimate sporting goes dormant for like seven weeks, then blooms into life, like the weather, with March Madness, the Masters, baseball and post-season NBA/NHL excitement. Until then, I might as well let my wife and daughter have control of the remote and settle in for shows about young love, the construction of ornate cakes and hushed discussions about honor conducted in old English manor houses.
March is even worse because it’s such a teasing letdown. Throughout February, as winds and snow pummel us, we somehow convince ourselves each year of the sleet-addled hallucination that March 1 will magically bring warm breezes and blooming flowers, rather than the howling, frigid winds that are that month’s actual calling card.
Sunday morning my attention will turn to Punxsutawney Phil. I know his shadow doesn’t magically affect the weather, but I can’t bear the thought of six more weeks of winter, and sometimes faith in magic is all we’ve got.
Baby steps toward protecting Carmans RiverBravo to Brookhaven Town, which has taken its first steps forward on the Carmans River protection plan.
But the really tough work is still to come.The town board approved last week a bunch of resolutions tightening zoning on nearly 1,800 acres along the river, which will limit overdevelopment — and, hence, pollution — in the river’s fragile watershed.Paddling on the Carmans River.
All of the property protected by the board is publicly owned — places such as Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island and Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley. Places, in other words, where development already was less likely to occur. On the other hand, the rezoning provides protection should future cash-strapped governments look to excess any part of that land and sell it.The really heavy lifting will come in the spring and summer when the board begins to tackle the rezoning of private property along the river — especially those properties that are not already subject to development restrictions by the Pine Barrens Act.
Three public hearings will be held — in April, July and September — regarding private property in different geographic sections of the watershed. Given the rezoning done on the public lands — residential only, and either A5 or A10, meaning if you want to build a home you need either five acres or 10 acres of land — there figures to be considerable pushback from private property owners.
In the meantime, the town will be attempting to purchase some property along the river for preservation.And we’ll all wait for the battle royale to come.
Striegel: Jamaican bobsledders get an Olympic push from fans worldwideJamaica's two-man bobsled team competes in the Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah, in 2002. (Feb. 16, 2002: AP Photo)
The Olympic Games have a contradictory quality. Their principles espouse putting “sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind,” but the competitions often boil down to fierce national rivalries and medal counts.
Now as the Winter Olympics approach, the Internet is helping erase national boundaries, at least where one team is concerned.
In less than four days this week, contributors from around the world raised more than $180,000 to help send Jamaica’s two-man bobsled team to the Games in Russia.
After bobsled pilot Winston Watts and brakeman Marvin Dixon qualified for the Games on Saturday, Watts said the team needed $80,000 for expenses and equipment to go to Sochi. Almost instantly, fundraising efforts popped up on websites including Indiegogo, PayPal and Reddit.
A campaign was created at the crowdfunding site Crowdtilt on Saturday night. By noon Sunday, more than $5,000 had been pledged. By 10 p.m. Monday, the $100,000 mark had been surpassed at that site alone, helped considerably by a contribution of $30,000 raised at the Internet currency site Dogecoin. Crowdtilt ended its fundraising on Tuesday with $129,899 raised. By noon Wednesday, Indigogo showed another $51,700, with 14 hours remaining in its campaign.
No doubt, the team’s effort was aided by the popular 1990s comedy film “Cool Runnings,” which told the story of the Caribbean island’s novel bobsledding team. At Crowdtilt, contributors of $50 or more were promised T-shirts emblazoned with #CoolRunnings2, the fundraising effort’s Twitter hashtag.
Kelly Mayes, a spokeswoman at Crowdtilt, said the campaign broke Crowdtilt records for most money raised in three days, $125,000; and the number of countries represented, 51.
It’s that last number that matters most. Thanks to the populist crowdfunding technology of the Internet, people from around the world will have a stake in rooting for the Jamaicans in Sochi, reflecting the spirit of sportsmanship that truly represents the Olympics.
Remembering Otis Pike, one of LI's best representativesFormer Rep. Otis G. Pike, a maverick Riverhead Democrat who served nine terms in Congress armed with a cutting wit and led a 1970s House investigation into CIA activities, died in Florida, his daughter Lois Pike Eyre said. He was 92. (Handout)
The late Otis Pike certainly was one of the most stellar representatives Long Island ever sent to Congress. Intelligent, effective and classy — the bow tie set a tone — he was key to getting Fire Island designated as a national seashore and a voice of conscience on notorious CIA behavior.
Pike’s death yesterday Monday at age 92 is prompting a lot of memories about the sharp, often self-deprecating wit that truly set him apart from the pack in Washington.
A Democrat first elected in 1960, his First District then covered all of Suffolk County. It was significantly Republican, but nothing compared to the legendary GOP machine across the border in Nassau County. “I’ve always said I’m surrounded on three sides by water and on the fourth by Republicans,” a joke the New York Times included in its obituary.
Pike stories include the time in 1977 when he stood on the House floor to skewer colleagues who wanted a pay raise of $12,900 to be automatic, not wanting to be held accountable for it back home. Among the faction demanding a vote, Pike took to the floor to say said he had stumbled across an ancient madrigal in the medieval literature section of the Library of Congress. He said it was written by Publius Ethicus and it "was apparently scored for 535 voices, largely male, but with a large number of male singers in the upper registers who had been castrated.
To the tune of "I've Been Working On the Railroad," the madrigal goes, like this, Pike said:
I've been working in the Congress Most of every days .
I've been working the Congress finding ways to raise my pay .
Have to raise it without voting, It would never pass. Anyone who voted for it would be out on his own.
We are all so pure, we are all so pure
We are all so ethical and pure, pure, pure
Pike, a ranking member of the House Armed Services committee, often skewered the Pentagon. He had the credibility to do so, he would say because he was a Marine pilot who flew bombing missions in the Pacific during World War II. He stopped a bill that would have given millions of dollars to top brass sitting in cushy desk jobs by spinning around and pretending to fly on the House floor.
Tony Marro, the former editor of Newsday and Washington bureau chief, recalls that at some point during the debate, Pike shared a meal with reporters in the House dining room. Pike told them that he had been “ace” pilot, which back then meant he had to have shot down five planes. But Marro recalls that in a classic Pike quip, he quickly added that he had been shot down twice and once crashed his plane, destroying two other U.S. planes on the ground at the same time. “He had -- unfortunately -- been a Japanese ace.”
The future of parking on Long IslandOn Long Island, we have a love-hate affair with parking. That’s especially true when it comes to our downtown areas. We love it when we can find a spot close to our favorite restaurant, we complain bitterly when we have to circle endlessly looking for a place, but we absolutely hate the above-ground garages that would give us the parking we crave.View of a parking structure designed for Rockville Centre village.
What parking could look like in the future was the topic Thursday morning at Adelphi University, where the Long Island Index showcased designs produced by four architectural firms as part of a challenge to transform how we think about parking — and more specifically, parking structures — in our downtown areas.
Index officials point out there are more than 4,000 acres of parking lots in and around Long Island’s downtowns. Clearly, there is a lot of potential for re-imagination. There also is a need to rethink how we use these spaces as we continue the process of building the downtowns of tomorrow — downtowns that take advantage of their proximity to train stations and that serve as magnets for the young and anyone seeking a vibrant lifestyle.
The Index, a group that issues reports on Long Island issues, paired the architectural firms with four villages or hamlets — Westbury, Rockville Centre, Patchogue and Ronkonkoma — whose leaders had expressed interest in innovative parking solutions.
Some quick impressions off the morning’s presentations:
- The Westbury plan was the most impressive, and the most intriguing. The design from LTL Architects increases the number of parking spots while adding commercial and office space as well as open space, all of it wrapped in a very attractive design. Terraced housing perches dramatically on top of the structure, and walkways underneath are covered with protective solar panels that could feed electricity to car-charging stations in the garage.
- The Ronkonkoma proposal was confusing, primarily because it seemed to be produced in a vacuum. It was designed for the Islip side of the Ronkonkoma train station, but presenters from Roger Sherman Architecture + Urban Design made no mention of the massive Ronkonkoma Hub project on the other side of the tracks. One would have thought there would have been some attempt to integrate the two, or explain how they might work together.
- The Patchogue proposal was modest, which was exactly what Mayor Paul Pontieri and his group requested. The parking deck pitched for the village adds some spots, but the more important piece was some state-of-the-art real-time signage that directs people to lots that have open spaces. Right now, some lots are vastly under-used. The design team from dub Studios says good parking management would save 150,000 vehicle miles annually by reducing the amount of time people spend circling through Patchogue’s lots.
- The plan for Rockville Centre also was a winner, especially in terms of aesthetics. The use of large graceful arches by Utile, Inc. Architecture + Planning was impressive and it was smart to have the ground levels of the three structures serve dual purposes: parking spaces during the week, places in which to host festivals, farmers’ markets and the like on the weekends. The design also included housing, retail and tennis courts.
Long Island Index officials hope the challenge starts a conversation about parking all across Long Island. We’ll be coming back to this later. But for now, consider the conversation joined.A view of part of the parking structures designed for Westbury village.